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Benfica and Portugal great Eusébio dies

Published: Sunday 5 January 2014, 15.20CET
Former SL Benfica and Portugal forward Eusébio, widely considered one of the greatest players of all time and with the trophies to match, has died aged 71 of heart failure.

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Published: Sunday 5 January 2014, 15.20CET

Benfica and Portugal great Eusébio dies

Former SL Benfica and Portugal forward Eusébio, widely considered one of the greatest players of all time and with the trophies to match, has died aged 71 of heart failure.

Eusébio, widely considered one of the greatest players in football history, has died aged 71.

The Mozambique-born forward spent most of his career with SL Benfica, winning the 1961/62 European Champion Clubs' Cup; top-scored as Portugal finished third at the 1966 FIFA World Cup; and was awarded the 1965 Ballon d'Or. In February 2010, Eusébio became only the third man to receive the UEFA President's Award, following Alfredo Di Stéfano and Sir Bobby Charlton.

The Portuguese government declared three days of national mourning and the Portuguese Football Federation (FPF) decided that all today's and next weekend's matches will be preceded by a minute's silence in memory of Eusébio. Since his death was announced early this morning, people started to visit his statue outside the Estádio do Sport Lisboa e Benfica to pay their respects, with wreaths and scarves adorning the Black Panther's figure.

A Bola newspaper reported in its online publication that Rui Alexandre Morais, a 32-year-old FC Porto fan, left a wreath with the following message: "Eusébio is for all of us," and he justified his act: "I'm a Porto fan and I swore to myself I'd never set foot in this stadium but this morning I felt an impulse and came. Eusébio is for all of us, a symbol of Portugal. Today there are no clubs, Eusébio is Portugal."

Meanwhile, Benfica confirmed that Eusébio's funeral will take place tomorrow at 17.00 local time (18.00CET) at Lumiar cemetery. Before then, his body will lie in state from 17.30 today next to Door 1 of Benfica's stadium. Tomorrow, fulfilling Eusébio's last wish, the coffin will circle the stadium from 13.30 before leaving in procession to Lisbon Town Hall Square, arriving there around 15.15. A mass will be held at Largo da Luz Seminar church from 16.00 before the funeral one hour later.

Born Eusébio da Silva Ferreira on 25 January 1942, he played for Benfica between 1960 and 1975, winning 11 Liga titles and five Portuguese Cups, and finishing as the league's top scorer ten years running. He also starred for Sporting Clube de Lourenço Marques in Mozambique and at various North American, Mexican and Portuguese teams either side of his stay with Benfica. In all, the records show he scored 727 goals in 715 appearances for Benfica.

He fired the Eagles to a memorable triumph in the 1961/62 European Cup – forerunner of today's UEFA Champions League – netting twice in a 5-3 final victory over Real Madrid CF in Amsterdam, a performance which helped to launch his career. In total, he registered 59 goals in 78 games in UEFA club competitions.

In 1968 Eusébio earned plaudits for a particularly fine gesture of sportsmanship in the European Cup final against Manchester United FC. In the closing stages of normal time, with the score 1-1, he bore down on United goalkeeper Alex Stepney, only to see the keeper make a brilliant point-blank save from his blistering shot. Eusébio forgot his disappointment to applaud and pat Stepney on the back. Benfica would lose the Wembley showpiece 4-1.

At the 1966 World Cup he notched nine goals, including two in the 3-1 elimination of holders Brazil in the group stage and four more in the extraordinary comeback to beat North Korea 5-3 in the quarter-finals.

Many distinguished figures in Portugal have been paying tribute:

Aníbal Cavaco Silva, President of Portugal
He was a person endowed with exceptional human qualities, great humility and affability. He had a passion for life, surrounded by the affection of all Portuguese people. Two months ago I had the chance to give him one last hug. When I made an official trip to Mozambique, I insisted that he was part of it; he was the most endearing person I have met in life. He represented the national team with boundless dedication – we remember the day he left the pitch in tears [after losing the 1966 World Cup semi-final], and those tears are our tears today. The country is officially in mourning. The best way to pay tribute to him is to follow his example. Let us follow him as a sportsman and as a human being.

Pedro Passos Coelho, Prime Minister of Portugal
Eusébio led the Portuguese flag and our pride to the four corners of the world. A football genius and an example of humility, an athlete of excellence and a generous and supportive man, Eusébio was an example of professionalism, determination and devotion to national colours and Sport Lisboa e Benfica for all sports and Portuguese. Eusébio – and the memories of the Black Panther dominating the pitch – blends the sport, the country, our history and our collective ambition. This memory will never die.

José Manuel Durão Barroso, president of the European Commission
Today is a sad day for Portuguese and world football. My sincere condolences to Eusébio's family and all Portuguese.

Luís Filipe Vieira, Benfica president
Eusébio had already won his status of myth in life and that's why the news of his disappearance is more shocking, because myths should never leave us! The 71 years of Eusébio celebrates football, celebrates Benfica, celebrates Portugal, but brings to mind someone who always had a huge pleasure for life. It is this dedication to life that we remember today. Eusébio will never die because his example will always stay with us. Thanks for everything you gave us.

Jorge Nuno Pinto da Costa, Porto president
Portuguese football is in mourning because one of the greatest symbols of football has died. He was the greatest Portuguese player of his generation and, above all, a great human being and an example of fair play. Here I evoke his memory and send my condolences to the family. It is a sad day for Portuguese football.

Cristiano Ronaldo
Forever eternal Eusébio, rest in peace.

Luís Figo
The king! Great loss to all of us! The greatest.

José Mourinho
Eusébio is immortal. He was an important reference, in what he achieved in football, with his values, his principles and his feelings even after finishing his career. His death leaves a great void.

Last updated: 06/01/14 13.31CET

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